Gay San Francisco

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There are restrictions on the entry of certain travelers into the United States in an effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19. See the CDC website for details and updates.

Bars, nightclubs, restaurants, entertainment and recreational venues that had been closed, began to reopen with restrictions. But effective November 21, 2020, governor Newsom ordered non-essential activities between 10pm to 5am to stop across most of the state for a month following another surge in coronavirus cases. See:



San Francisco grew large during the California Gold Rush. For some time a haven for prostitution and gambling, it was known by the dawn of the 20th Century for its flamboyant style, stately hotels, ostentatious Nob Hill mansions, and a thriving arts scene.

The turning point in the city's modern gay evolution took place during and shortly after World War II. As the port of embarkation for military men shipping out to, and returning from the Pacific Theater, San Francisco experienced a post-war confluence of young servicemen who found this to be a more tolerant hometown, joining the many new immigrants attracted by good economic prospects. North Beach Beat Generation writers and musicians, who fueled a San Francisco Renaissance in the 1950s, embraced and celebrated alternative lifestyles and more fluid sexual identities. Summer of Love flower-power children of the late 1960s, disillusioned and disgusted with conventional American life, and angry about the Vietnam War, also came from all over the USA.

Psychedelic, transgressive and confrontational, colorful in art, fashion and music, the Counterculture, along with political activists of the Anti-War and Civil Rights movements, explored new possibilities for Americans dissatisfied with the status quo. Many came here, even if they had to hitch-hike, to converge on the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood between Golden Gate Park and Downtown. Gay people, feeling the same rage and frustration that exploded in New York during the Stonewall Riots, were among them, coming to concentrate on several areas over the hill from the Haight, particularly in what was then called Eureka Valley, now known as the Castro, where a generation of LGBT social and political activists began the work that would transform the whole Bay Area.

For some old-timers, the 2008 movie based on the life and assassination of gay city supervisor Harvey Milk, brought back memories of how the Castro once looked. A neighborhood of low rents and shabby businesses to match, it had been filled with vacant storefronts, with handbills plastered everywhere. The district was so transformed by years of gay attention that the film's producers had to de-gentrify the Castro, then put it all back together. The restoration of the the landmark Castro Theater to its glory days was one benefit, replacing the burned-out neon tubes, and refurbishing the colorful facade.


Getting here
San Francisco International Airport is not in San Francisco but in San Mateo County, about 20 minutes south of downtown. BART rapid transit connects the airport to destinations throughout the Bay Area.

Long-range bus service was to be based at the Salesforce Transbay Transit Center, which opened in August 2018, but that soon closed in September with structural problems. Buses have been rerouted, "until further notice," back to the "temporary" Transbay Terminal (200 Folsom), which was used during construction of the new facility. Greyhound, as well as regional bus systems such as AC Transit (Alameda & Contra Costa counties), SamTrans (San Mateo County), and Golden Gate Transit (Marin and Sonoma Counties) are affected, along with a number of Muni city buses. Check with your carrier while they sort it out.

Amtrak operates a shuttle bus from Transbay Center, and three other downtown locations, to the rail station across the Bay in Emeryville. From there they offer rail service to 500 or so destinations in 46 states. Commuter and tourist ferries connect the Ferry Building and Pier 39 to points in Marin County, Oakland, and to the north, Vallejo in Solano County.

After repairs have been made, the new Transbay Transit Center, next to Millennium Tower, will connect with the BART/Muni Embarcadero Station from the east end of the Lower Concourse, and the Intercity Bus Facility, between Beale and Main Streets, will be dedicated to intercity services such as Greyhound and Amtrak. Plans for the Caltrain rail line to be extended underground will bring California High Speed Rail to the Transit Center, at first from here to Los Angeles, and eventually all the way from Sacramento to the San Diego International Airport.

Getting around
When you arrive at the airport, buy a one, three, or seven-day transit passport for unlimited rides on San Francisco's Muni transit system, including the world-famous cable cars. Those passes cost $12, $29 and $39, respectively. Otherwise the fare is $2.50 with a card, or $2.75 using cash. Before you arrive, you can buy a CityPass, which includes a three-day transit Visitor Pass, plus admission to a number of attractions over a 9-day period, for $89 (all prices October 2018). 

BART, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, connects San Francisco's Downtown and Mission Districts with East Bay towns, and beyond through northern San Mateo County. Going southbound it connects to San Francisco International Airport, and Millbrae.The Caltrain commuter rail system operates along the peninsula, from San Francisco/ 4th & King, to San Jose Diridon Station, and beyond. Fares depend on distance and times of travel - see their website.

Clipper cards may be used on all 17 of the major Bay Area transit systems. See their site for how to get and use one, and to add value.

Many local residents commute by bicycle, steep hillsides notwithstanding. For bike rentals see Blazing Saddles&

- Staff 2020